Maharashtra polls: 86-year-old freedom fighter goes to vote on a stretcher

Despite being bed-ridden since January, Vishnu Datar told his family that he wanted to vote; was taken in an ambulance
to the polling booth

It was passion for the country that had compelled Vishnu Datar to run away from home and join the Goa liberation movement in 1955; and it was the same passion that made the now 86-year-old arrive at the polling booth in an ambulance and stretcher to vote.

Vishnu Datar
Strong-willed: Vishnu Datar (86), who had participated in the Goa liberation movement went to the polling booth on a stretcher and ambulance

“Although he has been bedridden since January, when he found out about elections via advertisements and television, he expressed his wish to go and vote,” said his wife, 65-year-old Padmaja.

Their son booked an ambulance for the morning and took him to his polling station at Annasaheb Patil School in Kothrud. Padmaja, who was also a freedom fighter, said, “I can understand his passion for voting and doing his part to elect the right candidate.”

Datar has received various awards from groups that participated in the Goa liberation movement, as well as from the state government in 1985. In 1955, at the age of 27, he left his home in Raigad to join the movement.

Padmaja said that while he is bedridden and has difficulty moving, he has quite a sharp memory. She said that their son, who stays close to them, made arrangements for his father so that he could go and vote. Their daughter stays in Thane.
Aside from his son, residents of the area also helped the 86-year-old by carrying the stretcher till the polling room to help him vote.

One of the youngsters who had helped, Prasad Bhide, said, “After seeing him coming to vote despite his condition, I told all my friends on social media platforms that they should also vote. If this freedom fighter can come on a stretcher, there is no excuse for not voting.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Rajabhau Kharade, who said, “Datar is an inspiration for the young generation, not only as a freedom fighter, but also because he still takes interest in the social problems of the area. I try to help him whenever possible and have a lot of respect for what he has done for our country.”

Datar was also part of the History club, Itihas Mandal, where he would contribute from time to time. “In January, he fell down and has been bedridden since. He also sustained injuries on his head and forgets things from time to time,” said Padmaja, adding that despite getting exhausted after the trip to the booth, he was happy after he voted.

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